Heat vs. Blazers preview: Portland's big moment

Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE

The Blazers, who have snuck back into the playoff race out West, have a chance to make a nationally televised statement against Miami on Thursday.

While rookie sensation Damian Lillard has gotten most of the press out of Portland this season, the Trail Blazers have quietly moved into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff standings.

Portland has won five of their last six games, a stretch that has gone under the radar of the national media, but that will change if they can defeat Miami when the defending champions come to the Rose Garden on Thursday night.

The Heat, meanwhile, are looking to get the sour taste of an 87-77 loss to the Pacers out of their mouths as they play the second of a six-game road trip that will take them all over the West Coast.

Miami doesn't play a traditional center and has struggled against bigger and more athletic front-lines this season, which could be a big opportunity for LaMarcus Aldridge.

Aldridge, coming off the first All-Star Game of his career, is averaging 21 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists on 47/0/81 shooting. A strong showing against the Heat could help cement his spot on the All-Star team.

Miami will be trying to find some more offensive production from their supporting cast, as the "Big Three" scored 66 of their 77 points against Indiana.

And while Portland doesn't have their star power, they're just about as thin. The lack of production from the Blazers reserves has been one of the team's biggest problems this season: all five of Portland's players with a PER above 15 are in their starting unit.

They could be buoyed by a boisterous home crowd. The Rose Garden is one of the most difficult places to play in the NBA and there will likely be an electric atmosphere for Miami's only visit of the season.

The game will be broadcast at 10:30 p.m. on TNT. According to our friends at Odds Shark, the Heat are favored by -4 points with an over/under of 195.

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